The Cherokee County residents are just two of the 55,000 Georgians who suffer from lupus.
The autoimmune disease can affect various parts of the body including the heart, kidneys, lungs, skin and joints.
Symptoms can include painful joints, anemia, rashes, hair loss, ulcers and more that range from moderate to severe.
There is no known cause or cure.
Unlike many other chronic diseases, however, the signs and symptoms of lupus cannot always be seen.
“You don’t look sick, but you’re sitting there suffering,” said Ms. Beasley, a Towne Lake resident. “I think it’s one of the biggest forms of discrimination to judge someone with an illness on how they physically look.”
Although they live just a few miles down Interstate 575 from each other, Ms. Beasley and Mrs. Collett only met a year ago when the Tribune featured them in a story on the annual Walk for Lupus Now.
The two women will be participating again in this year’s event, which takes place 4 p.m. on Saturday at Piedmont Park in Atlanta.
“We’re blessed to know each other and be friends,” said Ms. Beasley. “It’s very important not to be alone with an illness.”
The women count on each other to listen and understand what’s going on with their health.
“They call lupus the disease of a 1,000 faces because it can affect people so differently,” said Mrs. Collett, a Holly Springs resident. “But our [cases] are similar. I’d say they were 90 percent the same.”
Stricken by waves of debilitating fatigue, the women both have to divvy up their energy and take naps.
“I go to the doctor and come back and take a two-hour nap,” said Mrs. Collett.
Both women even see the same rheumatologist, Dr. Kimberly Wilson, at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta.
“(Stacie) can call me, and I can understand what’s wrong and what’s going on,” said Ms. Beasley.
The women also know what it’s like to take multiple medications a day just to manage symptoms.
Ms. Beasley said she takes about 15 different medications or almost 45 pills per day.
Mrs. Collett’s regimen is similar.
“My lupus has remained very active despite taking an arsenal of powerful medications each day including chemo,” she said.
Along with being each other’s support system, the women both actively help support others affected by the disease through the Georgia chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America.
“I have significant damage from not being diagnosed sooner,” said Ms. Beasley. “That’s why we walk — to raise awareness.”
After first getting sick in 1994, Ms. Beasley visited five doctors before being diagnosed at the end of 1998.
She said it’s surprising how many people live with the disease for years undiagnosed.
“I think I’ve had it since I was a teenager,” added Mrs. Collett, who was formally diagnosed in 2005. “My mother could never keep me well.”
Mrs. Collett has formed a team with her family called JustHope, in honor of her children, Justin and Hope. Her personal fundraising goal is $700, and her team’s overall goal is $1,200.
Ms. Beasley will be walking as an individual, along with her dog, Wendi, with a goal of $1,000.
A large portion of walk proceeds will stay in the state to support the local chapter’s programs while another portion goes toward national research efforts.
But along with raising public awareness, the women said the event does more by bringing together the community of those affected by the disease.
“It’s important for patients to feel validated and see others like them,” said Ms. Beasley. “It’s a moving experience.”